Mystery Worshipper: Lazarus (Deceased)
Church: St Joseph's
Location: Guildford, Surrey, England
Date of visit: Saturday, 15 January 2011, 12:00am
A bright, airy new-build church, probably built no later than the turn of the millennium. One accesses the church via a little covered footbridge, as the main worship space is upstairs, with the hall underneath on the ground floor and the car park in the basement.
St Joseph's is well known for having an excellent musical tradition, with people travelling far and wide to attend the 6.00pm mass.
Guildford is the county town of Surrey, just south of London, in easy commuting distance of the capital. Of Saxon origins, today it is a modern, busy city with plenty of amenities for business people, tourists and shoppers. It has a large student population and is famous for its modern Anglican cathedral, which was used in the film The Omen.
The Rt Revd Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel & Brighton, preached and administered the sacrament of holy orders. The Revd Anthony Churchill, episcopal vicar, and various priests concelebrated and were assisted by two deacons.
What was the name of the service?Solemn Mass of Ordination to the Sacred Priesthood of the Revd Alexander Hill by the Rt Revd Kieran Conry, Bishop of Arundel & Brighton
How full was the building?
Packed to the rafters.
Did anyone welcome you personally?
A lady greeted me with a smile as she handed me a service book.
Was your pew comfortable?
It was a basic modern pew. I thought the kneelers could have been a bit softer, though.
How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?
Relaxed. The music group were warming up and the sound engineers were testing the microphones.
What were the exact opening words of the service?
"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen."
What books did the congregation use during the service?
There were service booklets and a digital projector screen that was attached onto the side of the organ case at the front.
What musical instruments were played?
Organ, piano, guitars (a mix of electro-acoustic and electric), drum kit, and an African djembe drum.
Did anything distract you?
There was a slight buzz in the sound system, which really annoyed me, along with the fact that the church was not built with the person of shorter stature in mind. I couldn't get a clear view of the altar at all when people stood up.
Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?
Catholic. A blend of many different traditions, cultures, and liturgical tastes. Music from Iona, England, USA and Trinidad was featured, along with the "Veni, Creator Spiritus" in Latin. No particular style seemed to clash with another; it was simply catholic in its truest sense.
Exactly how long was the sermon?
On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?
10 – Bishop Kieran is a very capable and pastoral speaker. He is very used to preaching in schools and this showed in his preaching style. He preached with clarity and wisdom.
In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?
Why do we do what we do? Bishop Kieran linked his preaching in schools with the newly ordained priest's faith journey (he was formerly an Anglican vicar). Sometimes we have to stop and ask God, "Is this what you really want?"
Which part of the service was like being in heaven?
The music was wonderful, and at the moment of consecration the atmosphere was electric. The Holy Spirit was really moving in this place!
And which part was like being in... er... the other place?
During the litany of the saints, it was very apparent that what was displayed on the screens was not what the cantor was singing up at the front. As the responses were the same for us every time, the guy operating the audio/visual desk gave up and the screens were blacked out.
What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?
I received a blessing from the newly ordained priest, who thanked me for travelling so far to be at his ordination.
How would you describe the after-service coffee?
I had two glasses of red wine (fairly traded) and a small glass of champagne, along with some sandwiches. They were lovely.
How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?
10 – I would certainly want to come to the Sunday evening mass if the music and liturgy are like this every week.
Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?
Yes. And even more proud to be a Catholic Christian.
What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?
Receiving a blessing from the newly ordained priest.